November 8, 2015
I forgot to tell you that I did the free tour in the morning. It was, as always, very interesting. We learned that the cathedral took 180 years to build and that it has the same victory markings in bull’s blood that the cathedrals in Seville and Salamanca have. Nowadays, Salamanca is the only cathedral where you’re still allowed to continue the tradition, however there’s a catch. You can only do it if you get your PHD and graduate top of your class…and pay 500 Euros. Haha…
The guide took us through many of the side streets, telling us stories along the way. We saw secret gardens, and little houses, and I learned where the expression “saved by the bell comes from.” Back then, it was common for people to be accidentally buried alive so when they were put into the grave, they would have a rope tied to their finger. If they happened to “come alive” they simply pulled on the string which would activate the ringing of a bell. So they were literally saved by the bell! We also passed the Gregorio Monastery, which used to be a prison, then a brothel, and is now a monastery. The nuns who lived there are never allowed to leave unless someone in their family gets really sick or passes away.
The highlight of the day was definitely visiting the famous Alhambra. This is a castle and fortress that actually has a pretty complex history – it used to belong to the Moorish ruler Muhammad I al-Alhmar until the Catholic Monarchs took over. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
What a huge area – you could probably spend all day walking the grounds and gardens and different areas. The good thing is that it’s a self-guided tour so you can walk around at your own pace except for entering the Nasrid Palaces. To enter the palace, you have to go on the time printed on your ticket.
I loved the Moorish patterns the best. It simply amazes me how many details went into creating these buildings. It’s hard not to stand in fascination at how old and yet well-preserved everything is. I went to the Alcazaba, Nasrid Palaces and Generalife. How lucky was I with the warm weather! It really felt like summer, especially in the gardens where all the flowers were still in bloom.